Stocks Stabilize After Central Banks Step In

It took the biggest global financial rescue since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to bring some stability to stocks on Friday, as the major indexes pared steep early losses to end the day mixed.

Global stock markets have been battered in recent weeks on fears that U.S. subprime mortgage troubles could lead to a global credit market meltdown, and Friday began with a steep sell-off after Washington Mutual and Countrywide Financial became the latest to report liquidity problems.

Central banks around the globe have injected billions of dollars into the financial system in the last two days, and the U.S. Federal Reserve pumped an additional $38 billion into the banking system in three separate actions on Friday to bring the fed funds rate — the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans — back to the 5.25% target rate after it shot up to 6%, a sign of tight credit markets. The Fed said it will continue to inject funds as needed, and also said its discount window is open for emergency loans.

The actions seemed to be enough, as stocks pared steep losses and several notable technology and financial names ended the day in the green. The Dow’s biggest gainer was IBM , which rose 1.7%.

Still, most movers once again seemed to be to the downside.

Nvidia , Borland Software , Brooks Automation CyptoLogic , Marchex , Symmetricom and Sapient fell on their earnings reports, while Rambus fell 5% after delaying its annual report because of stock option issues.

The Nasdaq fell 11 to 2545, the S&P 500 gained a fraction to 1453, and the Dow lost 31 to 13,239. Volume declined to 4.2 billion shares on the NYSE, and 3.25 billion on the Nasdaq. Declining issues led by a 20-12 margin on the NYSE, and 17-13 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 55% on the NYSE, and 61% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 30-460 on the NYSE, and 54-278 on the Nasdaq.

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